People are often surprised when we tell them we need at least two weeks to set up a competition. For us, two weeks is still a tight turnaround. There’s licence applications to lodge, landing pages to set up and audiences to tease before we’re ready to open a competition to the world…

But we’ve been doing this a fair few years – and don’t expect you to know the finer details of planning competitions as well as we do – so we wrote this handy blog post on planning your competition timeline to ensure you’re prepared for your next competition or giveaway.

Grab your calendar of choice and let’s go.

Why is having a competition timeline so important?

Before we delve in to the ins and outs of planning a competition timeline, it’s important to understand why you even need one in the first place.

Here are four all-important reasons why creating a competition timeline is going to make your competition life easier.

LESS STRESS

Knowing where your licence applications fit into the overall scheme of things or how long it actually takes from idea to launch means you’re prepared; and being prepared means feeling less stressed and less overwhelmed when running a competition.

ACCOUNTABILITY

Having a timeline keeps you accountable and means you’re more likely to launch your competition on time. We’re all guilty of those three-in-the-morning amazing ideas we half bake and abandon to the ever-growing ‘to do’ pile, aren’t we?

MORE CONTROL

If you can take a quick look at your timeline and know exactly what you’re meant to be doing and when, you’re going to feel a whole lot more organised and in control.

BETTER RESULTS

Ensuring you leave yourself enough time to spread the word and promote your competition means it’s more likely to be successful in achieving your competition goal, which is after all, the reason you’re running a competition.

So now you know why it’s important to plan your competition timeline, we’re going to show you exactly how to do it.

Step 1 – Set a provisional launch date.

Your launch date is the date you’re hoping to go live to your audience and start collecting entries for your competition.

This is the date around which all other competition milestones revolve. You and I both know there’s no way you’ll be able to launch tomorrow, so set yourself a realistic and achievable launch date at least 2 weeks from today.

PRO TIP if you’re going to need to apply for licences, give yourself additional time before launch as some permits state they can take up to 21 working days to be approved.

Once you’ve decided on a date, pop it into your diary/calendar. By putting it in your calendar, it’ll force you to consider what else is scheduled in around that time and decide if launching a competition at that time is realistic or not. Remember, this is just a provisional launch date to help you plan out the rest of your competition timeline, so stop stressing, all you fellow Type A personalities!

Whether electronic calendar or paper diary, make sure you put your provisional launch date in writing… Image by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

If you need to shift or adjust your provisional launch date, that’s fine too; and if it’s really stressing you out, just write it in pencil on a scrap of paper so you can move on to the next step…

Step 2 – Decide how long you want your competition to be open.

‘How long is best?’ I hear you ask.

There are no hard and fast rules that work for everyone when it comes to competition duration. Some week-long competitions see more entries than month-long competitions and some need a couple of weeks to warm up and gain momentum. Every competition is different.

In general, the longer the better, unless you already have access to a huge, targeted audience you can convert cheaply and quickly. You’ll need to bear in mind the value of your prize and what you’re asking people to do in return for an entry – if you’re giving away something valued at $1,000+, you should keep your competition open at least 3 weeks to make sure you’re getting a decent return on your investment and allow yourself enough time to achieve your goal. On the other hand, if you’re giving away a $10 prize, a flash 24 hour competition could work wonders.

We’ve written a comprehensive guide to how long you should run a competition for here.

Once you’ve decided on your – again provisional – competition duration, pop it in your calendar or jot it down so we can complete step three…

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Step 3 – Set a close date for your competition.

This one should be easy. If you followed the first two steps, you should be able to calculate your closing date quick smart. Pop this date in your calendar too.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, you do need to set a closing date.

You can’t just keep your giveaway open until you’ve decided you’ve had enough/collected enough entries/made enough money. Not only is it unfair to your entrants but it’s a legal requirement to state the open and close dates in your terms and conditions and marketing material in most states and territories in Australia and indeed across the world.

Your competition can be closed and still awesome. Image by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.

You’ll also need to set a winner draw date, the date and time you will pick your lucky winner from all eligible entries. Most states and territories require this to be published in your terms and conditions and marketing material too.

If you need a hand putting together your terms and conditions, we’ve got a handy competition T&Cs template just here.

Step 4 – Schedule in your promotional activities/posts.

The final step to planning your competition timeline is scheduling in your planned promotional activities and posts designed to drive more traffic and entries to your competition.

BEFORE YOU LAUNCH YOUR COMPETITION

So many people skip this step and then wonder why no one enters the second they go live with their competition. If no one knows about your competition, they’re not going to be ready and raring to enter when you launch it. It’s just common sense.

You don’t have to spend a huge amount of time on promotion, even just a post the week before your competition launches saying ‘stay tuned for our exciting competition launch next week’ and a post the day before saying ‘don’t forget our competition opens 9am tomorrow morning!’.

DURING YOUR COMPETITION

Whilst your competition or contest is live, you will need to make sure you’re continually promoting it to keep it top of people’s minds and encourage those who haven’t yet entered to enter. You might decide to run some paid advertising or just mark off some milestones such as your halfway point, your one week to go, three days to go etc.

AFTER YOUR COMPETITION

Once you’ve drawn your winner, as per the date in the above step, don’t forget to announce your winner! Usually you would announce their first name and surname initial only, for privacy.

You may also like to do a round up post of your favourite entries if you ran a game of skill competition or a thank you post to everyone who entered to round off the competition.

Ideally you’d schedule in a little more promotion than just the bare minimum I’ve described above, but the point is promotion means entries, entries mean social proof and social proof means more entries… and more entries means you achieve your competition goal.

So please take time to schedule in promotional activities for your competition!

So there you have your very own four step process to planning your competition timeline: set your launch date, decide your duration, set your close date and schedule in your promotional activities. If you follow this how to guide, you’ll not only save yourself a lot of stress, but you’re more likely to launch your competition and achieve your competition goal too!

If you’ve followed our guide to competition timelines and are still a little lost, don’t worry, there are a number of ways we can help. You can book in a free strategy session with us here, you can take a look at our done for you services, or just get in touch with us with any questions you have.

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